Friday, April 27, 2007

IT Rule #1: Firefighting is a waste of time

Time spent fighting fires (a.k.a. fixing problems) should be avoided as a rule. Note that as one of IT's main responsibilities is keeping things running smoothly, firefighting cannot be ignore and problems must be fixed as they come up. However, it is not in the company's (and therefore IT's) best interest to spend time doing firefighting.

Fire prevention is by far the better way to spend time. In most cases, an hour spent preventing fires will pay for itself many times.

Prevention includes the following efforts

  • Solid infrastructure. This includes network, wireless, storage, and all the components that make up the computing environment. Spend the money on good equipment, but maintenance, and monitor everything.

  • Consistent Desktops. This can be a tough balance with the desire to let employees have control to changes things in order to do their job better or just to make the computer their own (remember, they may be spending 5-7 hours a day working on it).

  • Identifying root cause. When a fire has to be fought, spending time to determine the root cause is well worth the effort. Since MS-Windows can fail for unknown reasons, it isn't always possible. However, if the root cause can be found and (importantly) proven, the fix can be applied across the company to prevent that problem from happening again.

Reducing time spent fixing problems frees up IT staff for working on projects for improving the computing environment. The business world is moving too fast to not have that time for improving systems.

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